Sunday, 31 July 2011

This Week

A brief update of the groups activities over this last week.

Firstly - we broke the 100 bird mark on Thursday at the bay! Our first triple figure session of the year. We were joined by Gillian again who gives a good account of the session up until 8am when most of us had to leave to go to work or various university related meetings, leaving CJ and Rosie M to the nets. When the nets were closed 102 birds had been entered into the notebook ready for a mammoth IMPR session (and you thought ringing was all glitz, glamour and bacon sandwhiches...). As an added bonus both reed and sedge warblers gave up plenty of poo for Vaf's upcoming return to student-hood.

Saturday saw another go at sand martins which was vaguely successful. We managed 14 new birds bring the grand (not year total) for the site to 101 birds (100 new, 1 control). 80 of these have been adults so we would have scope for a RAS which is something to ponder, but we'll a) have to find the other colonies along the river and b) increase our catching efficiency. After sand martins we adjourned to the bay for breakfast and another 40 something birds, only one of which provided a poo sample. Top marks went to Billy Whizz who was the only trainee who did both sessions - the others crying off with excuses such as "I need to go to bed" and "I have to catch a train". Yeah, and the dog ate your pliers...

Ti, starting his ringing career, with one of this
seasons sand martins. Cracking shot of Dr O too... 

Saturday afternoon saw more hirundine action in the form of another brood of swallows at the stables. Now we just have 11 rings to make a 100 swallows in the park this year and, touching wood, should the remaining broods survive and clutches hatch, we'll easily make this! We'd be there already but have missed a couple of broods due to time, logistics and more importantly a deep rooted fear of large four legged animals that can kick and bite. We should point out that the horses at the Cardiff Riding School are very well mannered - we are just wimps. Second broods are well underway; one has already fledged, another two are close to fledging, another two have well grown chicks and another two being laid! But more of that at the end of the season.

Monday, 25 July 2011

The Abbotsbury Gallery

Ringers hard(ish) at work

"You ain't seen me - right."

"Oh please A permit give me the pliers!"

"Definitley not a Wheatear. I think..."

Ti tries to buy Vaf's leniency with tea 

Threesome? Really...
About 3 and a half hours, gas mark 6.

1 feffa, 2 feffas, 3 feffas, err 4 feffas...

You serious...


"Look, all I know is its definitley not a Wheatear"

Abbotsbury 2011

Friday night saw a motley band representing the Cardiff Ringers rock up at the Abbotsbury Swannery for the waterfowl event of the year. Every two years an event occurs here that sets pulses racing for those of us that get a kick out of ringing the big white bread eating types; the Abbotsbury Swan round up.

Most of the group were Abbotsbury Virgins but would soon have their swan sexing cherry popped. For two of the party, Vaf and Facey, this marked their third tour of duty at Abbotsbury, having served as T, C and now A permits.

The round up is an ideal event to meet up with old friends and familiar faces. For us it was good to see our comrades, especially Terry Coombs, from the Radipole Ringing Group. Terry was responsible for teaching several of us about the ways of the waterfowl and as honorary members of the RRG we were pleased to be wearing their colours. It was also good to be able to meet Luke in person; a fellow Welshmen currently stationed overseas in Dorset.
Our Two Veterans in their away kit enjoying the privileges of
supervising A permits; swan ringing is for trainees.
After being told to meet at 6am for the briefing we were somewhat perturbed to be still waiting by 6:30/45… But the canoeists had been sent paddling to herd the swans toward the holding pens. We land lubbers made our way down to the shore to help encourage the swans into the pens. “We” being the royal we – why risk getting soaked when others are all too eager?

The Eager Masses: paddlers and walkers unite!

Finally, after much shouting of “Will You Get Out Of The PEN!” by an exasperated Prof Chris Perrins, the swans were eventually in the holding pen and ringing could commence in earnest.

The task in front of us... spot the odd one out!

This is not for the faint hearted; the preliminary total for this year’s round up was 771 (the one is important) swans and when you see what you have to do…

In the video above, Dr O showing off his new found skill of sexing swans by cloacal manipulation...

By the end of the day the three stations being run by the Radipole Ringing Group had processed 384 swans – practically 50%! Not bad considering we were the last stations in the row. 

An RRG Station in full swing.
We were of course joined by the Cardiff Ringers’ mascot – Ti Thomas. Ti, despite providing teas, grub and the occasional theft of a swan jacket on the day of the round up, had been particularly cheeky the night before and so a punishment was devised. That’s the excuse for generally tormenting Ti. He was wrapped in a swan jacket and to much applause from the assembled 100 or so people, dumped in the mud.

Tied up Tie; BTO please note, his Dad was present and
gave us encouragement permission.

After a break, some grub, and packing away we headed to Radipole lake to join Terry and some of the other RRG gang with duck catching. 7 mallard, a herring gull and a coot later the Cardiff Ringers headed back across the bridge.

Nice Bag Billy Whizz!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Friday Morning; a right load of crap

Friday morning could best be described as a little on the wet side. The ideal weather for ducks perhaps but not for us. Dr O, The Explorer and Facey headed to the stables while it was just about getting light and nearly scored three brace of swallows. Like fishermen we ringers need the stories of the one that got away, and finishing on five birds (three new adults in the mix) they headed to the Bay where CJ had set up shop and had already been joined by Vaf.

Between the showers we managed over 40 birds, among them 4 Garden Warblers which was most welcome and a new bird for The Explorer.

While CJ takes the job of net watcher, The others get breakfast on the go

Better still, the  The Cardiff Ringers are involved in a number of projects that involve the collection of bird crap. The most recent of these involves El Vaf collecting said excrement from a selection of a reed bed passerines, and on Friday the Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers were out in number and whats more very generous.  

Reed Warbler Shite - for the ringer that has everything...

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Big Question

When netting in a garden which is worse:

a) Catching no birds at all?


b) Catching a feral pigeon?

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Mallard Maddness

It’s been a few weeks since Charlie Owen of the Environment Agency called to say that a female mallard had raised four ducklings in the EA office’s “quad” and asked if I would like to ring them. “Hells Yeah!” was the obvious reply but at the time they were too small. Well this week the mallards came of age.

A Quack Squad from the CCW massive, who make base across the road from the EA, were assembled for the great catch; Pikey Nick, Bobby B and Princess Hatuqa, with Ambassador Owen (who spent most of the time trying to hide out of sheer embarrassment) arrived, net in hand.

Mummy Mallard, decided the best place was to watch the action was from the roof; next time my lady, next time. The next half hour was spent searching the bushes ducklings ...

Just one or two hiding places...

A frustrated ringer faces Thetford and prays to the Gods of Ringing.
The ducks breed at the EA most years, hence the paddling pool.


The Quack Squad plus duckling.

The final score? Of course we got all four.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Windy in the Wetland

After such a distasterous ringing weekend, I was desperate to feel the wind on the nets and the water inside the wellies. So I set off to Cosmeston to get ready for Reed Warbler migration time. Wind blown nets dont often catch much and this time was no exception- a measly five birds including two retraps although it was nice to see one of the old R546 gang still in action (ringed in 2007).
Plate 1. The mist net (empty)

ho hum..there is always tomorrow.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

But its nothing like train spotting...

When the wind and rain prevent any sort of 'proper' ringing activity, its a good time to spend some 'quality time' with members of your own family. And what better activity to share with one's pregnant sister than to go ring reading at Roath Park Lake. Its a valid day out isnt it?

After I insisted she pay for my icecream- I set my dear sister on the task of hunting down ringed quacker types. I would like to say she had the same attention span and hunger for these activities as I, I can however comment on her ability to chase formerly slumbering swans into the lake before we could get a good look at there legs.

I often wonder what the local muggles think of the strange man taking photos of geese feet in their park, I cant imagine they put me in the same box as trainspotters..its nothing like trainspotting..ahem.

The ringed swan devision were either not in attendance or in the safety of the mid-lake zone- well away from the guy paying a bit too much attention to their legware.

The Llanwern Greylag regulars were in:
RBWN(B6L)  5231126
RBWN(KK6) 5231112
RBWN(FV6)  5255656

Yes I do need to get a life.

The D-Team

Another month, another visit to Cwm Taf Fechan to catch dippers. The team this time was the same size as the last outing and by the same size we mean four times as big! Eight, 8, of us were at the river hoping for Bronwen y dwr to make a presence in the net. We also had the pleasure of being joined by Trainee Gillian Dinsmore, a native of Scotland but down in the sweet south of Wales on a placement with the WWT.

How many people does it take to catch a dipper?

Steph Tyler (who has probably forgotten more about dippers than most of us will ever know) told us that as the birds will be in moult, they can be very sulky this time of year and not inclined to be too active. Steph was not wrong. After a long wait, with nothing but a bacon buttie, good chat and a grey wag to entertain us we struck camp. We moved on and on seeing a dipper fly a little way down stream we put the net up in a very nice spot and decided to put in to practice something else Steph told us - send a part up and down stream of the net to walk the birds toward it. This we did and were rewarded with a fly over grey wag, followed shortly by a dipper in the net! A lovely juvvy female in moult, with her head and chest adult like and her body still in juvvy plumage.

The rest of the morning proved very frustrating. As we went to take down the net, another dipper came upstream and so quick action was required. In this instance it involved throwing our selves against a near by tree (while mentally shouting "Noooooooo!" Hollywood style) in time enough to see the bird bounce out. The next spot was ideal for dippers and we had two more bounces.

Cwm Taf Fechan`s totals

Dippers 10
Greywags 3(1)
Piedwags 1
Mallard 1
Chaffinch 2
Bacon Butties 3

In Next Month`s Episode of CTF Dippers;
Will Facey have mended his waders so people won`t have to witness him in shorts and wellies at 6am?
Will Haf be pushed in the river?
Will Dr O be persuaded to walk the river?

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Greylag Update

A while back we managed to read the rings of some Greylags at Roath Park Lake.

We've recently found out that both Greylags were ringed across the border in Gwent at the Llanwern Steelworks (Newport), which hosts a breeding population of geese.

A Big Thanks to Richard Clarke of the Goldcliff Ringing Group and Kane Brides of WWT for the information:

Date ringed: 4th July 2006
Age: 4
Sex: male

Sightings:  6 December 2009 @ Llanwern steelworks

5231112 with White DARVIC on right; KK6 (in black)

Date ringed: 25 June 2007
Age: 4
Sex: female

Sighting: 24 May 2008 @ Llanwern steelworks
Retrap:  26 June 2008 @ Llanwern steelworks, when DARVIC ring was added
Sighting: 12 February 2011 @ Llanwern steelworks

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Baconless Bay Bonanza

Despite a strong breeze and grey sky the bay was as lovely this morning as ever it has been. This had more to do with the fact that the place was hopping with birds.

By the time the nets were closed the details of 71 (52 new, 19 retraps) birds had been neatly transcribed into the notebook.

Among today’s customers were 29 reed warblers, mainly juvies. A few showed obvious fault bars but a couple of today’s reewa juvies had some really interesting lines to show off.


 A young dispersing Kingfisher also graced our company. This proved to be the first that CJ has extracted that wasn’t caught in a wader net, and the first he could process in the light of the morning.

We also caught one of these:

Name the subspecies (no, not you CJ or Dr O) and
you may, just may win a prize.

Don’t be daft!  We just had good old fashioned troglodytes.

The morning, however, was nearly called off when it was discovered, much to the dismay of the ringers present, that the gas bottle didn't fit the attachment of the camping stove. Imagine ringing without a bacon buttie... In this day and age!Luckily emergency snicker and pan au chocolate rations were brought into play. Phew!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Birds in Borneo

The last week of mist netting at Danau Girang in Sabah, Borneo has added some spectacular birds to Cardiff Uni's ringing list here. Bird of the week had to be the black-and-red broadbill, which appeared to have a plastic bill attached to the front of its head.

There are also many tiny but equally colourful birds around. One example is this orange-bellied flowerpecker:

Friday, 8 July 2011

Good Things Come to Those That Wait

A few recoveries and controls have filtered back to us of late.

Way back in the dawn of the nineties and naughties, when the BTO was just a three letter acronym for certain Cardiff Ringers, the great and, perhaps, good of the Bull and Morgan Ringing Partnership did a fair bit of ringing down in Dorset. The site “Tidmor” is now run by a Mr I Dodd who on the 26 April of this year caught a female blackbird ringed by the partnership in April of 2003. As she was an age code 6 when she was originally ringed she is knocking a bit now! You go girl!

Two other reports come from more well travelled birds and ably demonstrate how slowly the wheels of international data sharing turn.

Back on 7 August 2009 we caught and ringed an adult sedge warbler.  By 11 August 2009 V845584 had travelled the 467km to Tour aux Moutons, Loire-Altantique, France. Not bad going for a bird weighing just shy of 12 grams.

Also originally ringed at the bay was V845410, ringed as a first year on 12 July 2009.  31 days later, having travelled 729km, V845410 was caught at Ile Novelle, Gironde, France on 13 August 2009. The area obviously appealed to this intrepid young explorer for it was re-caught at the same place four days later.

And two years or so after these movements, we found out about them… Nice going France.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Flat Holm Gallery

A few select shots of the Cardiff Ringers abroad (courtesy of CMJ)

This was the moment Chris lost the stare-off competition

At least that guy in the middle seems to be enjoying himself
I have no idea who these two idiots are

Landing craft crew

'Plate 1. Scribe and Ringer'
The Gull and Leek pub

Monday, 4 July 2011

A Trip to Treasure Island

Flat Holm Island is often described as being ‘Rich in wildlife, steeped in history’, and after a rowdy weekend wrestling with young gulls and avoiding the dive bombs of the 5000+ adult Lesser Black-backed gull population, this can be suitably adapted to ‘Rich(ard) in a boiler suit, steeped in gull poo!'.

Yes, this weekend marked the annual gull catch on Flat Holm, an important long term study of the lesser black back gull population that dates back to the dark ages.  ‘…And yay….’, the future scholars and scribes would declare ‘ ….t’would take a brave army of ringers to boldly  march into the battlefield of the central gull colony on Flat Holm’- and what better army to do the job than one led by Captain Bailey and Field Marshal Durham.  The outfit included a crack commando squad comprising Chris ‘Machete’ Jones, Dr Larus Ross-Smith, Dora ‘the Explorer’ Querido, trained civilian natives and a couple of lesser A-permit officers (one of which may or may not be sexist in the field).
A local imbecile eyes up his lunch

Not exactly clockwork but the mission was successful with 100 gull chicks each donning a metal ring and a corresponding colour ring. Other highlights included 41 newly ringed passerines including blackcaps, blackbirds and a common redstart. The session also recaptured a dunnock ringed as a juvenile in 2003 (Island life must be good).

24 hours of island life is certainly enough to make you feel in tune with nature, the sun and the sea. But was it the mid-summer heat, the pure physical exertion of the catch or the late night performance of the Bailey Foghorn that resulted in such total exhaustion?  
Machete and the Explorer mid-battle

So if you are looking for the chance to get away from the busy streets of the city and take in the calm wonders of island life, I suggest you get on the boat and go to the Caribbean.  However if you want to feel part of the landscape in amongst the beaks of gulls, horns of sheep and the leaves of the wild turnip, then jump on the boat to Flat Holm.  Did I mention the pub?

A lesser A permit Officer cant believe his luck
Thanks to Brian, Maurice, Natalie and the Wardens for having the Cardiff Ringers along, it is a real privilege to be part of the project.

The Week that Was

Collectively we have been out and about with pliers in hand over the last week.

There was an early morning outing to Padwan Shewring’s gaff which scored nicely with 27 birds now possessing rings – among them 1 jackdaw and 6 house sparrows. Ringing at another garden had similar results, give or take 24 birds, with a blackbird and two house sparrows.

The inaugural visit to the ambulance station at Blackwier resulted in 8 swallows; 5 (out of a possible 6) adults and three out of three juvs were.

A trip to the bay saw 60, that’s sixty, birds being caught. The bulk of the morning was made up of juvenile reed and sedge warblers with a couple of chiffs and willow warblers thrown in for good measure. This particularly bird took the mantel of bird of the day:

Next a trip to one of our woodland sites, just for the hell of it, resulted in among others, blackcap and a good number of wrens – joy.